Honey Run

“Sugar in the gourd – gourd on the ground. The way to get the sugar out is to roll the gourd around.”

Mike Hankins and his wife Ruthie Jane Hankins (circa 1920’s). Photo credit: John & Retta Waggoner

I came across the strangest story titled, Mike Hankins, in a December 2, 1906 – The Tennessean (Nashville) newspaper. The cleverly written piece was first published in The Hartsville Times newspaper in 1906. Composed in somewhat riddle form, it took some deciphering on my part to figure things out. All-in-all, the reporter was giving Mike Hankins a fond farewell, while at the same time delivering a literal rebuke of sorts. It seems Mr. Hankins was one of the ringleaders where town gossip was concerned in Hartsville. Honey-Run evidently relates to gossip flowing freely amongst a certain group of citizens. At the end of the story is the saying, “Sugar in the gourd.” Those words refer to simple lyrics from an old square dance tune going back to the late 1700’s. Sugar was placed in gourds during pioneer days and oftentimes it was hard to get out. The metaphor in using this term relates to gossip being contained within a container, instead of allowing it to seep out. This story was copied verbatim.  

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Mike Hankins  

Mike Hankins, the blacksmith at “Honey Run,” left with his family Monday for Lake County, west Tennessee. Mike is a good fellow, and will be missed very much from “Honey Run.”

So Mike has gone west, at last. He heard it was better further on, and often talked of moving out into the world and trying his fortune among strangers. Not that he was unappreciated in his old home, for everybody in the county knows Mike, and all wish him mighty well.

But he is “a good fellow,” and fun and poverty seem to have chosen him for boon companion and running mate. He is capable in his line, but he would rather joke than work.

He knows as much scripture as the circuit rider, is conversant with the fine points and literal quotations concerning baptism, also the exact formulate for foreordination, and the final perseverance of the saints, but his convictions are not deep enough to root the turnip seed of truth. Day after day he will argue, ever sticking to the literal word.

Leaving his eldest hopeful and the striker to run the shop, he frequently foregathers at the village post office with the congenial spirits to sample the gossip of the countryside that the rural carriers have brought like honey to the hive, to discuss the candidates and the issues of the most important campaign since Sherman marched with fire and sword to the sea.

There is never real want at his house, but there are times when the wife and children feel that they would rather do without than ask the grocer to “charge it.” Mr. Grocer has not yet lost anything to Mike, but the quid pro quo sometimes comes on crutches; and besides, a man with a trade, and a family, and at his time of life, ought to have a home of his own and should have achieved a secure standing in the church that would enable him to read his title clear to “mansions in the skies” on the slightest provocation.

But nothing sticks to Mike, for Mike will not stick to anything more than three days in succession. “Mike is a good fellow.”  He has done nobody harm, except himself and those for whom he would gladly lay down his life in an emergency.

He is as ready to sit up all night and keep an ice towel on the fevered brow of a friend as he is to grab a horn and away to the meadow and the woodland on a moonlight night, following the melody-making hounds as they give on the hot trail of “that old red fox.”

The smithy fires have glowed and the cheerful anvil rung till late; many a night to accommodate the emergency of an energetic neighbor, whos team must be afield ere dawn.

Because of these characteristics, he “will be missed very much.”  His quaint sayings and curious riddles will be repeated again and again as the boys gather to settle the momentous matters of state and fix with unerring certainty the destiny of aspiring genius.

His crude philosophy, crystalized into provincial epigrams, will be the familiar tongue of generations yet to come. Yes, Mike Hankins is gone from “Honey-Run.” It is not worth while to wish that his tribe may increase, for there will be Hankinses in every settlement when the bones in the valleys begin and the seas give up their dead.

So, let us the rather trust that his new post office is “Sugar-in-the-Gourd.”   

Old train depot at Hartsville, Tennessee.

Reverse Aging

If it works for Tom Selleck then it works for me!

A friend told me that Tom Selleck is 98 years old.

Some people age gracefully while others age ungracefully. Unfortunately or fortunately, I’m firmly mired in that latter category. You’ll understand why I use the word fortunately in short order.

I don’t count movie stars or celebrities in my gracefully aging synopsis except Tom Selleck. A recent National Enquirer article mentioned that Selleck has never done a thing cosmetically to reverse his aging process.

On television I believe he promotes something called, “Reverse Moreage”. I didn’t catch the entire commercial, but most likely he’s peddling some type of de-aging pill or elixir.

A friend of mine claims that Selleck is 98 years old. I looked it up and the actor’s only 74. Perhaps Tom Selleck tells people he’s 98 to hawk his product? Wise thinking!

Most Hollywood types use plastic surgery and other outlandish measures to try and keep their youthful appearance. Not that there’s anything wrong with such. I suppose if you have the money go for it.

When I say age gracefully, I’m talking about ordinary people here; those folks we’ve met that travelled through time without doing anything outlandish to their skin.

I decided a couple of years ago to grow a long beard so that I could accurately play Santa Claus for my grandchildren. Using phony facial hair for the gig didn’t seem the right way to go. After two years of being Kris Kringle I’ve kept the beard for other reasons.

I used it as a prop in becoming a homeless person for a story. A fake beard would’ve never worked. Thankfully I was able to pull the stunt off to near perfection. An article I composed about my experience was published in several periodicals. I also used it on the reality show Pawn Stars in trying to come cross as a grizzly old desert rat. That act never quite materialized as they cut some of the best footage.

A friend of mine, Rod Sanborn, after seeing me in a long beard said that I needed to cut it. He claimed the thing made me look 10 years older. Well hopefully it did. Santa must be at least 400 years old.

That got me to thinking for a change. One friend already pegged me four years older than I really was without the beard. I decided to keep growing the bush and then ask strangers to guesstimate my age.

Rod was right. People that I didn’t know believed I was around 75 years old. When I told them 65 they gasped and quickly apologized for the insult. I decided to take the experiment one step further. I wanted to know if it was more savvy for seniors to appear older than they really are, rather than younger. It didn’t take long to get my answer.

I was in a grocery store one morning chitchatting with a middle-aged cashier. When I asked how old she thought I was the woman politely replied,

“Ummmm… seventy one or seventy two?”

“Thank you for the compliment!”, I told her. “Would you believe I’m ninety eight?”

Being able to say this with a straight face helped to seal the ruse. Taken completely by surprise the lady couldn’t believe how much I hadn’t aged. She wanted to know my secret.

“Donuts.”, I informed her. “A donut a day will keep the wrinkles away!”

I’ve decided to keep my beard another year so that I might have more investigative fun with it. Some folks say it isn’t right to lie about anything. They’re correct! I look at things a bit differently where this joke is concerned.

“In my case it’s not actually a lie. It’s part of an unscientific study!”

From what I’ve learned thus far, it’s better for seniors to claim they’re older in their golden years than the opposite. If it works for Tom Selleck then it works for me!

Camo hat: $4.99 – Invicta diver’s watch: $99.99. – Claiming to be 98 with a straight face: Priceless

Smart Bird – Bad Bird

Joleen believes it’s a cleverly hatched plan.

Jess and Aldo love to watch YouTube videos of other parrots on my laptop. Jess likes to help me write.

I’ve had my share of pets throughout the years: dogs, cats, a hamster, horned toads, turtles, parakeets, and two parrots. The parrots, Jess and Aldo, have been with my wife and I the longest. It’s going on 33 years. Out of all our pets these guys are up there in the intelligence department.

We, or I should say I, came by Aldo after a visit to a pet store. I was looking at birds with a friend when a lady walked up asking if I wanted a parrot. I told her I’d have to see it.

Jeff and I made arrangements to stop by the gal’s place on our way home. Aldo is a Red Lored Amazon parrot of medium size. He seemed to immediately take to me which was good. The woman had placed Aldo on my shoulder and he sat there perfectly content. Six hundred dollars later the accomplished actor was in a cage on the way to my place. Evidently he wanted out of her home quite badly as there were no shed tears.

Once inside the door, I showed Joleen how docile Aldo was. I sat him on my right shoulder and he immediately pierced the lower lobe. Blood flowed and I shrieked.

Joleen was able to rescue the angry bird before I could get my hands on him. Since that day he’s been her parrot. He’ll let me feed him and clean his cage but that’s about all. If I try to hold him he goes into angry bird mode. I’ve been pinched enough times to no longer attempt such. Whenever Aldo has to venture out of his pen I use a long wood pole or have Joleen do it.

Jess is strictly my pet. He’s a Yellow Nape Amazon also of medium size. I came by Jess after my friend Jeff could no longer keep the bird. Jeff’s wife developed bad asthma being exposed to his parrot dander. Some folks are that way. Our dog veterinarian can’t be around birds. Thankfully her husband isn’t, thus he tends to the avian species.

Jess will chase Joleen if he’s taken out of his cage and placed on the floor. It’s comical! She knows enough to not place tasty fingers inside his domain. He’s also the talker out of the bunch. One of his favorite lines is,

“Smart bad – Bad bird!”

I taught him that. It’s especially funny when Joleen walks by his cage and he makes an attempt to scurry over and bite her. It’s amusing to me but perhaps not so much to her.

Aldo has only been able to mimic one word since we got him. On occasion he’ll utter,

“Hello.”

Jess on the other hand has a full bird vocabulary. Some of the things he says come from when Jeff and Laura owned him:

“I live at 9940 Springhill Drive”. That’s where they live.

“Aloha!” Jeff told me that someone taught Jess that word while they were in Hawaii on vacation.

“Hello Jeffie!” That’s what he calls me. I’m glad he doesn’t use the Mikey word instead.

“Laura!” He calls Joleen that and she always corrects him. For 33 years the two have been doing that gig.

Jess is smart enough to sing. His favorite tune is,

“You are my Sunshine.”

He especially likes to emphasize the lyrics,

“When skies are gray.”

I believe he’s referring to Alaska weather. The skies are rarely gray here in Arizona.

When he mimics our children’s names, Gunnar and Miranda, it sounds like,

“Gunnar-ah”“Man-dah.”

I started coughing one morning because of a cold. Jess quickly picked up on it. That was several years ago and he’s still mocking me. Dr. Lange has yet to ask Jess when he goes in to get nails trimmed,

“Do you smoke?”

There’s a good possibility these guys will outlive us. Some parrots hang in there ‘til 100.

I’m not sure what’ll happen then. We’ve talked about finding them a new home with younger owners. Soon after that discussion it seems Aldo picked up on Jess’s cough. Joleen believes it’s a cleverly hatched plan.

How likely is it for anyone to want these guys if they begin hacking in unison?

Jess looks this way whenever Joleen enters the room.

A Southern Belle in Sardinia

“The view from here is lovely. There isn’t much left of the quaint town. It is beautiful tonight with the moon on the water.”

Faded newspaper photograph still exudes her beauty and charm – Lt. Kitty Steele-Driskell Barber

Some folks have a knack for writing exquisite letters. Their words paint a beautiful portrait of where they are or what they see. Kitty S. Driskel of Selma, Alabama had such a gift.

“Miss Kitty” as friends and family called her was born February 27, 1919 in Selma to Eugene and Corrie Driskell. From the beginning, Kit loved to entertain much like her mother. Articles in the Selma Times-Journal show that the little girl’s birthday parties were well attended. Gifts and prizes for attendees were a big part of the celebrations.

Mrs. Eugene Driskell was active in the bridge society, and daughters Kitty and Betty were soon to follow. At two years of age, according to a newspaper article, “Miss Kitty” held her first bridge party. In reality it was a birthday bash in disguise. Many more such parties were soon to follow throughout the coming years.

In 1931, one month shy of being 12, Kitty’s dad suddenly passed away from pneumonia. Her mom was left to raise two daughters as well as run the family grocery business.

At 17, she became President of her First Presbyterian Church youth group. She was actively involved in the church. One newspaper account had her being a highly sought after young lady. Kitty Driskell was definitely a Southern Belle.

In 1939, Kitty left Selma to attend nurse’s training school In New Orleans, Louisiana. By 1941, she’d graduated and returned home. When WWII broke out Kitty enlisted in the Army Nurses Corp with a rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Her duty station was Craig Field Infirmary.

While working at Craig she met Lieutenant Wendell Barber. Things got serious quite fast. They married on March 4, 1943. Two months later both were deployed overseas to different locations. Wendell went to South America, while Kitty ended up first in Africa, and then on to the enchanting island of Sardinia, Italy in the Mediterranean Sea.

The young nurse sent back a glowing letter to her husband’s parents in Rutland, Vermont describing the temporary home. On December 10, 1943, The Brattleboro Reformer newspaper in Brattleboro, Vermont saw fit to print much of it in verbatim:

“I did not know that any foreign duty could be so wonderful! This place is simply beautiful! There is a lovely yard and the hospital is as modern as I’ve ever seen.

Cream colored walls and red tiled floors, two white marble staircases – twin. They are lovely.

There are glass doors everywhere and it makes it so light. It is built like houses in Florida and California. Lots of angles for sunshine. Almost every ward opens onto a porch. The big glass doors are built on rollers so that they can be pushed out so as to enclose the porches in glass.

Nine of us are living on the fourth floor of the hospital. It is really ideal. Margaret and I have a double room. The bath is lovely with a new tub and washstand, very much like those at home except that “C” is for cold water and “F” for hot. It mixes me up.

Our room opens onto a balcony. It is a little too cold to enjoy it now but we have a clothesline there. The water is so soft the dirt just falls out of things. It is so nice to be able to get clean again and stay clean.

The rest of the nurses are quartered in a home back of the hospital. It is a two-story building with a living room fitted with comfortable furniture, a reception room and a kitchen.

The upper floor has bedrooms and two baths. It is built on the side of a hill overlooking the sea, and you can step out of the second floor window into a formal garden. Hitler probably still wants this place for his summer home.

They have beds of mint and rose geranium rose bushes, and oleanders. As soon as the electrical plant is repaired, we will have central heating. We couldn’t have asked for a better place.

The people here are of a much different class than those we had dealings with in Africa. They too are poor, nearly to the point of starving, but will do any amount of work for an old sweater or shoes.

They are proud, though, but really appreciate what you give them.

The view from here is lovely. There isn’t much left of the quaint town. It is beautiful tonight with the moon on the water. This side of the globe, though, doesn’t care much for moonlight now. The Jerries (Germans) can see far too well. It has been quiet and I hope it stays that way.

(later)

I was given two days’ leave so I spent it in Sassari. The Colonel was going up and had room for one nurse. I had a light case of ‘overseas nerves’ so the chief nurse sent me away for a rest. I did not want to go, but am so glad I did. It was quite an experience.

I can’t speak a word of Italian and expected to stay with the nuns at the Italian hospital, but was finally quartered with a woman doctor in the doctor’s quarters and didn’t even see the nuns. We took one of the boys with us who spoke the language and he was with us at all the meals except breakfast.

The young doctors practically went crazy over an American nurse as did everybody else. After dinner, which lasted from 1:30 to almost 4, all of the doctors quit work and took us shopping. It was really a riot.

Droves of people followed me up the street, even in the car. I felt like President Roosevelt must feel riding through a small town. The turnout was almost as good as he gets. The storekeeper of one of the stores had to close and lock the doors while we were in there and the people were jammed at the door and to the top of the windows.

I understand that I am the third American nurse ever to be in that town. The Italian doctors went first and cleared a path for me from the doors to the car.

I must tell you about the food. Those people ate more than anyone I’ve ever seen. For breakfast they have only bread and coffee.  Here is a sample of the other meals.

First we had Sardinian salami (no pepper or spices in it but it was good), bread and wine. Next came spaghetti. They eat as much of each thing as if it were the only course. I ate what I thought was a large helping but they were almost insulted. Kept saying that I did not eat anything. After the spaghetti came steak and French fries. That tasted like heaven after C rations. Then they brought out a fish, and it was about two feet long, and eight inches wide, and six inches thick. Head and all cooked on it. Delicious.

With the fish we had a dry wine, a salad bowl, and something that looked like onions only it tasted like licorice (horrible!) and a celery that looked like ours but tasted like the stalk of an old plant, (horrible too).

Then came the pastry and almond candy, oranges and coffee. I don’t know what they make their coffee out of but definitely not coffee.

One of the doctors was precious, silver-haired, and even though Nick had to tell us what he said, he kept us laughing. I loved him! He asked me if I liked honey. I said “Yes”. Later I realized I shouldn’t have said it so enthusiastically because he brought out a beautiful bottle and poured the honey into a cup.

I had to eat it plain with a spoon. He kept bringing it out every meal and on top of all the other food it was a little too sweet.”

Nine months after she wrote that letter, on September 19, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant Kitty Driskell-Barber was tragically killed in an aircraft accident. She’s buried in Netuno, Italy. A cenotaph (plaque) in her honor resides at the Live Oak Cemetery in Selma. In 1947 an Army Air Corp bomber was ceremoniously named after her.

Sardinia, Italy

Hit the Mark

I once ended up with one of those professionals that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Going to the doctor for a routine exam isn’t something I look forward to. Now days they expect blood to be taken beforehand, along with a report afterwards showing just what condition your blood is in.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition had a hit song years ago reminding me of such. Lyrics go like this,

“I just dropped in to see what condition my condition is in.”

I’m not afraid of giving blood. It’s the person standing behind the needle that has me most concerned. I once ended up with one of those professionals that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. I’m actually talking about my vein here. The gal tried so many times that my arm became black and blue. Thankfully a different phlebotomist took over. She hit the mark first try.

It seems whenever I do find a good phlebotomist they don’t hang around more than a year. The last guy deserted ship to drive a truck. What does that tell you?

Larry is the fellow poking me the past two times. He’s good.  This young man always hits the bullseye.

The lab I currently patronize plays classical music in their lobby. My wife says it’s for soothing the nerves of those waiting. I say it’s to drown out any screaming. You’ll never convince me that some folks don’t scream. We just never hear them.

Whenever I sit there nervously waiting for my name to be called I’ll gaze around at other customers. If a person is of average size or weight I pay no attention. The real skinny folks are the ones I worry about.

One poor lady’s arm was so thin that I wondered if it even held veins. What happens if a phlebotomist went a bit too deep on her? Have they ever poked all the way through? Imagining such horrible scenarios doesn’t ease my fears.

Phlebotomists generally ask if a person’s been fasting.  Just once I’d love to reply,

“Yesterday. On the interstate.”

Maybe it’s best not to. I wonder if these people even have a sense of humor?

I make sure to always hydrate before I give blood.  Why? You tell me. That’s another thing phlebotomists tell you to do before coming in. I’m always searching for a restroom as soon as the ordeal’s over.

With another blood draw coming up next month I have a plan. Last time I marked exactly where the needle went in using a ball point pen. Unfortunately the ink washed off when I showered.

This time I’ll mark the spot with a waterproof marker. I’m not the type person to ever get a tattoo, but perhaps one of a bullseye might not be a bad idea.

Should Larry decide to move on to a truck driving job like that other fellow, at least the new phlebotomist would be able to hit the mark; hopefully!

Lt. Ernest B. Rockwell Jr.

“Thank you for your service to our country!”

December 10, 1939. “The Selma Times-Journal”

I put together this collage of archived newspaper clippings on Lt. Ernest Bishop Rockwell Jr. of Selma, Alabama, for Doug Buster and his organization: Cemetery Preservation Group Incorporated.

The collection of articles is designed to show the ease in reconstructing a person’s life even if you don’t like to write.

I only subscribed to newspapers.com this past year finding it’s an invaluable tool for composing historical articles and stories. If the cost of a subscription seems too high, perhaps have your church or local library open an account.

October 13, 1921. “The Selma Times-Journal”. The young boy was named after dad.
December 20, 1927. “The Selma Times-Journal”
May 19, 1935. “The Selma Times-Journal”
Ernest Rockwell Sr. (dad). September 24, 1941 “The Selma Times-Journal”.
July 30, 1943. “The Selma Times-Journal”
July 21, 1944. “The Decatur Daily” – Decatur, Alabama
July 24, 1944. “The Selma Times-Journal”
Continued article from above.
Continued article from above. Sadly, honorary pallbearer Lt. Ned Driggers also of Selma was killed in Normandy, France a little over a year after Lt. Rockwell’s death. Lt. Driggers is buried in a Normandy military cemetery.
The beautiful home in Selma where the Rockwell family once lived. It’s easy to imagine young Ernest and friends scrimmaging in the front and back yards.
Gravestone located at Live Oak Cemetery – Selma, Alabama – WWW.Findagrave.Com

Earth Angel

I’d relegate such an angel to stand on the fireplace mantle rather than our coffee table. I think that’d be a mite too close to the uncovered bowl of M&M’s.

Earth Angel

Making telephones out of string and tin cans was something my brother and I did as kids.  The crude instruments worked fine as long as the twine was kept tight.

Jim was quite clever in coming up with a more advanced system.  He started collecting empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls while having friends do the same.  After several months of accumulation my brother finally had enough cardboard tubes to begin taping them together.

In the classic 1954 Walt Disney film, “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, Captain Nemo of the submarine Nautilus used tube phones to communicate with various sections of his boat.  Early day submarines and ships used similar arrangements.

By splicing the tubes together my brother created a 20-foot long communication device.  Jim was proud of his accomplishment.

Before we had a chance to try things out mom shut the operation down.  She deemed the tubes unsanitary, instructing him to chuck the disgusting things into a garbage can. That only temporarily slowed my brother down. Jim discovered that a length of garden hose replaced his beloved tubes just fine.

Oddly enough a prized gift given to mom by me was constructed from a TP tube.   My teacher in 5th grade brought in a box of tubes along with paste, glitter, cloth, pipe cleaners, and other miscellaneous items.

It was near Christmas and Mrs. Drake had students use the components to create special earth angels.  The tubes became torsos or bodies.  There’s no telling where Mrs. Drake got hers?  Back then kids didn’t care. They probably still don’t!

The earth angel I made for mom didn’t last long as it was quickly destroyed by our boxer dog, “Jet”. I suppose he was attracted to the odor.  The angel contained gobs of paste which gave it a sweet tantalizing aroma.

The other day I was browsing through Hobby Lobby when I spotted a clear plastic bag full of cardboard tubes.  The bag label had one of those yellow recycle logos on it.

I’m not sure if they were the real deal; size and shape was exactly the same.  I know all kinds of paper items are recycled these days, so perhaps these tubes did at one time hold sheets of Charmin or Angel Soft. If that was the case there’s no telling where they’d been. My mind went numb thinking of all the bizarre possibilities.

If one of my grandchildren wants to make me an earth angel I’d be tickled to death. Hopefully the tube used to construct such comes from their home.  If it hails from a bag of tubes purchased at Hobby Lobby I’ll still accept the gift of course. What loving grandparent wouldn’t?

I would relegate my angel to stand on the fireplace mantle rather than our coffee table. I think that’d be a mite too close to the open bowl of M&M’s.